These are unprecedented times. No one quite knows what is around the corner or how long we will be living with COVID 19. What we do know is that the UK wedding and event industry is being severely affected by the continued government restrictions on social gatherings. Following the devastating government announcement this week, maximum number of guests who can attend a wedding is 15 and all other gatherings are limited to a maximum 6. Food and drink can be served whilst guests are seated. Mingling is not allowed and dancing is out of the question. It looks like weddings and events will be restricted for many more months to come, so how do you help your venue survive Covid 19?
1. Check the guidelines
What can you still do? How can you continue to host weddings and events? What special measures do you need to put in place? Do you need to make any further investment to make your venue Covid Secure?
2. Talk to your customers
Contact your customers. How are they feeling? What do they need? What do they want? Do they want to proceed with their wedding with limited numbers? Do they want to postpone their wedding? Check your terms and conditions, particularly your refund policy. If your customer cancels their wedding, can you afford to offer them a full refund? Do you have dates available in 2021 if they ask to postpone? You don’t need to give them an answer straight away but you do need to listen to them and collate all the information. This will help you formulate a plan and help your business survive Covid 19.
3. Make a plan
We work in hospitality and our business is to delight our customers. Our business thrives on our ability to do this. Our hands are tied through no fault of our own and our customers are disappointed. How can you turn this around? You need to fulfil your customers’ expectations as far as possible without jeopardy to your business, reputation or future custom. This might mean offering them alternative dates or even providing them with a full refund. Once you have spoken to all your customers and understood their needs, you need to work out how best to match their expectations whilst ensuring you help your venue survive Covid 19.
4. Minimise your outgoings
It is important that you understand your financial position. How much cash you have on account, any debts or income still to accrue. Write a list of all your expenses for the rest of this financial year. Your fixed costs and your variable costs. Are any costs negotiable? What financial help is available to you? Speak to your financial adviser or accountant. What is your income vs expenses? Will you break even? Will you return a profit? Will you make a loss?
5. Maximise your income
Once you know your position look at the gaps. What dates do you still have to fill this year and next? What opportunities do you have? Do you have accommodation available? Do you have an in-house chef? Do you have a big garden or outdoor space? How can you diversify your existing business to recoup any lost revenue and help your business survive Covid 19?
6. Talk to your colleagues
Speak to your fellow venue owners and suppliers. Share insights, experience and skills. Yes they maybe your competitors but they are not your enemy and this is a time to help and support each other. Are any struggling to accommodate weddings or events? Do you have an opportunity to recommend their venue to customers you are unable to accommodate? By helping others you may help your venue survive Covid 19.
7. Stay engaged with your customers
Keep in regular communication. Keep up your social media engagement. Regularly update your website. Show the world you are still in business, that you want to welcome guests again and that you are following the guidance. Post relevant positive news, show your customers how hard you are working to re-open your venue. Remind customers of happier times with images from past weddings or events. We will be back!
8. Keep the pressure on the government
Right now it feels like our industry is being ignored so we need to collectively voice our concerns and our needs and make them aware of the situation we are facing and the help we need to survive. Write to your MP. Write to the media. Tell people. Talking and sharing helps raise a collective consciousness. We cannot survive alone so let’s work together and help your venue survive Covid 19.
2020 has been a terrible year for the whole wedding and events industry and it looks likely that the current situation will continue over the Winter. But I am optimistic that we will return and Summer 2021 will be a bumper. So just hang on in there. Stay positive. Work together. Listen to and communicate with your customers. Reassure them that you are there for them. Support one another and we will ride out this storm and help your business survive Covid 19.
For more tips on how to make your venue Covid Secure have a look at my earlier blog post here.